Welcome to the webbed and wired edition of R&R, aristotle. We’ll be doing the same sort of song and dance here as we do in print: reviewing the latest comics and cartoon-related books and ranting about trends and abuses and unfathomable foolishnesses. Each installment will stay here for about four weeks, with a new one coming in just about every other week or so. If you don’t have the time to ponder every punctuation mark in this deathless prose and merely want to see what might be there that would interest you, we suggest you scroll down the page looking for the bold-face type that heralds the notables who reside herein this week. So here we go with Opus 363 (and a reprise of Opus 362):
Opus 363: Editoons on Trump’s First Month, Wallace Wood Life and Legend, Nudes Return to Playboy, Word of the Year, Trump the Fourth-Grader & Obits for Jack Mendelsohn, Herb Galewitz and Dan Spiegle (February 28, 2017).
Opus 363 (February 28, 2017). We review six new books, plus a new Wallace Wood tome, The Life and Legend of WW, Volume 1, plus two first issues of new comic book titles, contemplate the fourth-grader mind of the Trumpet, bemoan the loss at the New York Times of the Graphic Novel Bestseller lists, look at nudes at Playboy and SI’s annual Swimsuit issue, ponder politics in newspaper comic strips and doubtful anti-Semitism in cartoons, and more—much more. Here’s what’s here, in order, by department—:
NOUS R US
American History Month
Comics Now Mainstream
More Awards for March: Book 3
Resist! Goes To Second Issue
Peanuts for Sale?
Prince Val Is 80
Bernie Wrightson Retires
Nudes Back at Playboy—But No Cartoons
Taxing for Gender Equity
Crumb and Kominsky Crumb Show
Historic First Comics Criticism in U.S.
NY Times Drops Graphic Novel Bestseller Listings
Odds & Addenda
Marvel’s Runaways for Hula
Black Lightning at CW
Jake Tapper’s A-borning Crime Novel
WORD OF THE YEAR
Flat Earth News
THE BRILLIANCE OF TRUMP
FUNNYBOOK FAN FARE
Will Eisner’s The Spirit by Francesco Francavilla
A Round-up of Trumpery from Last Month—:
Pat Oliphant Returns
Trump and the Press
Bronco Bama Leaves
Politics in Comic Strips
Politics in Candorville
THE FROTH ESTATE
NEWSPAPER COMICS PAGE VIGIL
Some of the Wonderful and Strange in the Funnies
CIVILIZATION’S LAST OUTPOST
Who Are the Biggest Liars in the 2016 Campaign?
CARTOONS UNINTENTIONALLY SPARK OUTRAGE
Norman Rockwell Imitation
Short Reviews Of—:
Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse, Vols. 6-9
Mary Astor’s Purple Diary (Edward Sorel illos)
The Best of Archie Comics: 75 Years, 75 Stories
“Riverdale”—Archie on Television
Black History in Its Own Words
Jim Davis’ Garfield Original Daily and Sunday Art Showcased
Longer and Opinionated Review Of—:
The Life and Legend of Wallace Wood, Volume 1
A-GAGGING WE SHALL GO
Single Panel Cartoons of Sipress
ONWARD, THE SPREADING PUNDITRY
The Final Dignity of Hillary Clinton
For Biogaphical Sketches of Cartoonists
and Illustrators in the Swan Collection of
the Library of Congress—
QUOTE OF THE MONTH
If Not of A Lifetime
“Goddamn it, you’ve got to be kind.”—Kurt Vonnegut
Our Motto: It takes all kinds. Live and let live.
Wear glasses if you need ’em.
But it’s hard to live by this axiom in the Age of Tea Baggers,
so we’ve added another motto:.
Seven days without comics makes one weak.
(You can’t have too many mottos.)
And our customary reminder: when you get to the $ubscriber/Associate Section (perusal of which is restricted to paid subscribers), don’t forget to activate the “Bathroom Button” by clicking on the “print friendly version” so you can print off a copy of just this installment for reading later, at your leisure while enthroned. Without further adieu, then, here we go—:
NOUS R US
Some of All the News That Gives Us Fits
AMERICAN HISTORY MONTH
Yes, we know it’s Black History Month, but we celebrate the African American contributions to the history of cartooning all year long, whenever something rears up. Genuflecting in the direction of this commemorative month, we recommend you re-visit our review of Tim Jackson’s benchmark book, Pioneering Cartoonists of Color, Opus 358. And then go order your copy online (try AddALL.com).
Or you could visit the Library Journal site where they’ve posted an article entitled “Superheroes & Heroic Struggles: 21 Graphic Novels for February, Black History Month.” Go to http://reviews.libraryjournal.com/2016/11/books/graphic-novels/superheroes-heroic-struggles-18-graphic-novels-for-february-black-history-month
Or you could scroll down to our Book Marquee department where we briefly review Ronald Wimberly’s illustrated book of quotations, Black History in Its Own Words.
UPWARD TO ENHANCED MAINSTREAM STATUS
Now it’s official: comics are a legitimate part of mainstream popular culture. Entertainment Weekly is our guide. The Defenders (Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, Daredevil and Iron Fist) were on the cover of the January 20 issue; and the next week, tv’s “Supergirl” and funnybooks’ Patsy Walker: AKA Hellcat were numbers 4 and 5 of the week’s Must List—“the things we love this week.” Validation.
Then the next week, Time magazine (dated February 6) did a two-page serious review of “Riverdale,” the “dark” tv version of the Archie Universe. How dark? Archie is getting over an affair with his music teacher; and a murder is afoot. Time is a supposedly serious newsmagazine; EW is cake and cool whip. After Time coverage of Archie, we need look no further for the ultimate validation.
But it goes on. The next week, Time took up the matter of National Book Award winner Ta-Nehisi Coates’ writing comic books—specifically, Black Panther. And when Coates produced a story Black Panther & The Crew with Black Lives Matter symbolism, Coates responded to a question: “This is in the air. It’s not like I looked at a Black Lives Matter protest and said, ‘Hey, I want to write a comic book about that.’ But you’re confronted with it every day. So when I sat down to think about what is this story with four black protagonists about, that rose up. The events of the day are with me.
“These issues are all over comic books,” he continued, “—and particularly throughout the history of Marvel. What weighs on me is reading X-Men as a child. They were charged. They dealt with discrimination. They dealt with being an outsider. They dealt with the things that I was feeling. The comics I’ve always read have always had a philosophical thread. The Black Panther books are not just a story about a king trying to rule. I’m trying to answer other questions, philosophical questions, social questions.”
Time accompanied the interview with sidebars about “comics we can’t wait for”—Motor Crush, Steven Universe, Batwoman (“perhaps the highest-profile queer superhero”), Extremity, and America (“queer Latina superhero America Chavez gets her own comic”), all illustrating the premise that “comic books have become ground zero for new kinds of heroes.”
Comics may have arrived in popular culture, but not at the New York Times. For explanation of that cryptic remark, scroll down to Scandal of the Month.
MARCH MARCHES ON
Congressman John Lewis made history at the 2017 American Library Association (ALA) Youth Media Awards (YMA) on Monday, January 23, when Top Shelf’s March: Book Three, the third installment of his graphic autobiography, written with Andrew Aydin and illustrated by Nate Powell, took four YMA wins, including the Robert F. Sibert Medal, the Coretta Scott King Author Award, and the YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults Award and, the crowning honor, reported Christina Vercelletto and Sara Bayliss at slj.com— the Michael L. Printz Award.
Previously, March: Book Three earned the 2016 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature as well as the 2017 Walter Dean Myers Award for Outstandig Children’s Literature.
It irks me just a little that all these awards, an indisputably distinguished list of honors, proclaim the book as children’s literature thereby ignoring its suitability for adult readers as well. It’s almost as if—“Well, comics—it’s for kids, right?”
No, not any more. But you couldn’t tell by looking at the awards the book has collected.
Lewis, however, was not inclined to carp. ““I love books and I love librarians,” he said. “When I was growing up, I tried to read every single thing I could. I hope these awards will help inspire all of our young people—and some of us not so young — to read, to learn, and to act. March is a guidebook reminding us that we all must speak up and stand up for what is right, what is fair, and what is just.”
After 58,000 copies of Resist!, the free comics newspaper edited by Francoise Mouly and Nadja Spiegelman, were distributed at Women’s March events throughout the country on January 21, the decision has been made to produce a second issue, reports ICv2's Milton Griepp.
Over 1000 submissions for the first issue were received in a whirlwind process between the election and the Inauguration, and the 40-page tabloid included pieces from such notable contributors as Alison Bechdel, Lynda Barry, and Roz Chast not to mention offerings from male cartoonists—including a Zippy piece by Bill Griffith, and a piece by a family member of the editors, Pulitzer Prize winner Art Spiegelman.
The print run of the first issue was increased from a planned 20,000 to 58,000 after a contribution from Mitch Berger and preorders from thousands of supporters, including retailers.
Submissions for a second issue are now being solicited, with a release date planned for this summer, perhaps around July 4. Visit resistsubmission.com/
The free distribution outside of comic collector channels has driven demand for the post-Inaugural issue higher than supply. Buy It Now prices for the first issue on eBay as this is written range from $14.95 to $79.95. But here at Rancid Raves, you get it for a mere pittance—the cost of subscription $3.95/quarter. So if you missed getting a copy of the whole enchilada, an ample sample appears on the other side of the $ubscribers Wall.
Irks & Crotchets
The Women’s March on Washington last month, organized as a show of feminist solidarity, was roiled by infighting after some organizers told white women to “check their privilege” so women of color and lesbians could lead the protest. Being white is “not okay right now,” one organizer declared “—especially after 53 percent of white women voted for Donald Trump.”
PEANUTS FOR SALE?
Reuters reports that the U.S. brand management company Iconix Brand Group Inc is exploring a sale of its majority stake in Peanuts Worldwide LLC, which owns the rights to cartoon strip characters Snoopy and Charlie Brown, according to people familiar with the matter.
Created by Charles Schulz and licensed in over 100 countries, the characters generate about $30 million in 12-month earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, the source added. They declined to comment on the expected deal valuation—and they cautioned that there was no certainty that any deal at all would occur. So why report this?
Because if true, it means big bucks for someone.
In 2015, Twenty-First Century Fox Inc released “The Peanuts Movie,” which was nominated for a Golden Globe award and grossed $246 million worldwide, according to Box Office Mojo (quoted by Reuters), a website that tracks the revenue that movies generate. Peanuts' largest international market is Japan, where a new Snoopy museum opened last year.
Iconix, which also owns clothing brand Joe Boxer and outdoor wear brand London Fog, purchased an 80 percent stake in Peanuts in 2010 from U.S. media company E.W. Scripps Co in a deal valued at $175 million. The remaining 20 percent is owned by Charles M. Schulz Creative Associates, which is controlled by the Schulz family.
But if “sources” aren’t prepared to vouch for the veracity of their own rumors, we can safely disregard this whole blurb.
PRINCE VAL IS 80
By Brian M. Kane
Before television, when most films were still black and white, the Sunday comics were an oasis of color in a Depression-era gray world. Highly popular comic strips drove newspaper sales in the early 20th century, so it is little wonder that their creators were regarded as celebrities. The epic Prince Valiant in the Days of King Arthur by Harold Rudolf “Hal” Foster premiered in the color comics section on February 13, 1937. Prior to Prince Valiant, Foster originated the adult-protagonist adventure strip genre by adapting Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan as a black and white daily strip in 1928, which was followed by the Tarzan color Sunday feature from 1931-1937. Faced with imposing financial and creative constraints as a work-for-hire artist, Foster focused his considerable skills as an illustrator toward producing his own strip. The extraordinary effort resulted in international prominence for both Prince Valiant and Foster. Today, after 80 years, “Val” remains one of the few adventure strip characters still in print, now being expertly drawn by Tom Yeates.
Fitnoot: For all of Kane’s commemorative article, plus brilliantly colored illustrations from the strip, visit kingfeatures.com/2017/02/prince-valiant-turns-80/
BERNIE WRIGHTSON RETIRES
A week or so ago, veteran illustrator Bernie Wrightson announced his formal retirement due to health complications. In a Facebook post co-authored by his wife Liz Wrightson, the couple shared news of Wrightson’s recent brain surgery and complicated recovery, which has left the artist with limited function on his left side and diminished use of his left hand.
"We have had to come to the sad conclusion that he is now effectively retired: he will produce no new art, and he is unable to attend conventions. Should this situation change I will happily announce it here," the post stated.
"He can still sign his name (in fact he was signing Kickstarter prints in the hospital!), and is otherwise pretty healthy and has good cognition," the post continued. "We expect to continue releasing signed prints, and offering occasional pieces of art for sale from the collection that remains." Wrightson co-created DC’s Swamp Thing with writer Len Wein in 1971. He also co-created Destiny, a character that would become famous in Neil Gaiman comics. He drew the poster for the Stephen King-scripted film Creepshow and later illustrated a comic book adaptation of the property. He spent several years drawing detailed pen-and-ink illustrations to accompany an edition of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein in 1983.
Over his career, he worked for DC Comics, Marvel Comics, Dark Horse Comics, Bongo, Fantagraphics Books, and Warren Publishing, among others. He worked as a concept artist on Ghostbusters, Galaxy Quest, Spiderman, Land of the Dead, and The Mist.
BARENEKIDWIMMIN RETURN TO PLAYBOY
But Where Are the Cartoons?
After just a year of foisting off on us its colossally bad taste in banning nipples and pussy from the magazine, Playboy with its March-April issue (on the stands February 28) restores total nudity to its accustomed pedestal in Hugh Hefner’s epoch-making magazine of sexual license. Nakedness in the magazine, despite the alarmist news coverage of its banishment a year ago, never actually disappeared: the women in the photographs were all naked, but nips and pudendum were always discretely shielded from display.
The ill-conceived decision to ban tit-tips and snatch was made because the management at the time felt the content had become passe in an era of online porn easily available on personal computers and smart phones..
According to Michael Liedtke at The Republic, the decision to show less skin was made under the regime of Playboy Enterprises CEO Scott Flanders. At the time of the decision, Flanders told the New York Times that it was simply silly for the magazine to keep focusing on boobs, butts and vaginas.
“You’re now one click away from every sex act imaginable for free,” Flanders explained.”
So why engage in redundant activity?
That’s how the so-called reasoning ran.
And then Playboy turned into a caricature of itself, saith BuzzFeed’s Anne Helen Petersen.
Flanders, we must note, left Playboy last May to run eHealth Inc., a health insurance exchange. So much for his judgement.
The decision to return to nudity was made, we assume, by Cooper Hefner, Playboy’s chief creative officer and the son of the magazine’s founder Hugh Hefner. Cooper called the nudity ban a mistake in a post on his Twitter account .
“Nudity was never the problem because nudity isn’t a problem,” Cooper wrote. “Today we’re taking our identity back and reclaiming who we are. I’ll be the first to admit that the way in which the magazine portrayed nudity was dated, but removing it entirely was a mistake.” I haven’t see the new manifestation, so I can’t tell you how the “new” way of portraying nudity is more, er, contemporary. (Nude is nude, right? Well, not according to Cooper Hefner.)
“This is a remarkably special moment personally and professionally that I get to share this issue of Playboy magazine with my Dad as well as with readers,” Cooper continued. “It is a reflection of how the brand can best connect with my generation and generations to come.”
Magazine expert Samir Husni said the prohibition on nudity probably alienated far more readers than it attracted.
“Playboy and the idea of non-nudity is sort of an oxymoron,” said Husni, a journalism professor at the University of Mississippi. “They are always going to have the stereotype as a nude magazine. The people who grew up with Playboy are starting to fade away so they will have to figure out what the millennial generation wants in the 21st century if they are going to survive.”
That challenge may fall largely on Cooper, 25, who replaced his 90-year-old father as Playboy’s chief creative officer last summer.
In addition to reviving female nakedness, the magazine is also reinstating the Party Jokes department, which serves to “provide a quick beat of humor and celebrates the playful side of the brand.” Also returning, Cooper said, is “The Playboy Philosophy,” a column reinstated 40 years after his father’s last installment in the 1960s.
Cooper said the column is meant “to explore the current political and cultural climate in the U.S.” In his first “philosophical” column, he wrote about the effect that Playboy has had on the general public and people's comfort in discussing certain taboo topics (in italics)—:
In the 1950s, the brand fought against McCarthyism with the decision to publish American writers, artists, and others who had been blacklisted by the U.S. government. In the 1960s, the company unapologetically promoted a racially integrated lifestyle in its clubs, in its publication, and on its national television shows when few others were willing to do so. Throughout the 1960s and onward, Playboy published cartoons and stories that challenged social norms, as well as advocated for the LGBTQ community when society had abandoned or, worse, aggressively gone on the attack against it.
Although it is a blessing to be able to continue something my father wrote with such conviction, my real motivation for bringing these installments back to life is my belief that we have entered a time when history is beginning to repeat itself.
Cooper compared the final years of the Jim Crow era and McCarthyism in the 1950s to America today under the Trump administration. He said that liberal ideology imposes a culture of political correctness and discourages debate because people get their feelings hurt before taking aim at conservative politicians, who "seem comfortable jeopardizing the rights of specific groups in the belief that it will ‘make America great again.'"
Concluding his column, Cooper said that regardless of one's political opinion, an attack on "Muslim Americans, on women's healthcare rights, on the LGBTQ community, or on the First Amendment" is an attack on everyone's rights. He did not directly mention Trump, but he appeared to be taking aim at Trump and his supporters by referencing the president's campaign slogan and echoing attacks that critics have levied against him.
“Playboy will always be a lifestyle brand focused on men’s interests,” he went on, “but as gender roles continue to evolve in society, so will we.”
Alas, no mention was made in any of the press releases (or anywhere else I looked) about the return of cartoons, for which Playboy was as famous as for its naked ladies.
We’ll see. Meanwhile, there are pictures on the Other Side of the $ubscribers Wall.
TAXING FOR GENDER EQUITY
“Each time a woman buys a tampon or pad in Colorado, she pays sales tax. It’s just a cost of being female,” observed Brian Eason at the Denver Post, introducing news that the state legislature is considering a law that would exempt these and similar feminine hygiene products from state sales tax.
“It doesn’t seem fair to me that we tax something that women have to have, for a bodily function that we cannot control,” said Representative Susan Lontine, who sponsored the bill.
Seven states have already given up the “tampon tax,” exempting menstrual products from sales taxes; if Colorado goes along, it’ll be the eighth state to do so.
KOMINSKY-CRUMB & CRUMB SHOW
A new show displays the work Aline Kominsky-Crumb and Robert Crumb have made over the decades of their partnership. At newrepublic.com, Josphine Livingstone begins her report: ‘As a woman with a big ass, I’ve always liked Robert Crumb. Those who are familiar with Crumb’s art only in passing will know him for the big, sturdy, sexualized women he drools over in his comics. ‘Nice big legs!’ one drawing reads, next to an arrow pointing to some nice, big legs. Crumb draws himself as a paltry little nerd, sometimes clinging to the legs of an enormous woman, his eyes hidden completely behind bottle-bottom glasses. Flecks of saliva tend to fly across the paradigmatic Crumb page.”
Although he is the better known of the two, Livingstone continues, “Crumb has been married for 40 years to the equally talented comics artist Aline Kominsky-Crumb. A new exhibition at David Zwirner gallery in New York City (previously on view at the Cartoonmuseum Basel) displays the work they have made together and separately over the decades of their partnership.”
Sorry: I beg to differ. Aline Kominsky-Crumb is not anywhere near as talented a cartoonist as her husband. She may have an underground cartoonist’s sensibility, but she can’t draw worth a toot, as we can plainly see in the visual aid that accompanies this newsy squib on the Other Side of the $ubscribers Wall (including a photograph of the happy couple).
Key to the show, Livingstone goes on, is Aline & Bob, the collaborative comic that represents the scenes and stories and romances of their life together. The pair met in 1972, in the Bay area; they have lived in France since the early 1990s. The comic covers all of this. We see domestic scenes, sex scenes, banal conversations, glorious fantasies. We see them eat dinner, deal with French villagers, and so on. We see their daughter Sophie grow up. We see Sophie’s children as babies.
[Wonderful. But we could do without Kominsky-Crumb’s alleged artwork.—RCH]
FIRST COMICS CRITICISM IN THE U.S.
From John Adcock at his blogspot—:
EXTRA, NO. IX. The Adventures of Mr. Obadiah Oldbuck, often labeled “the first American comic book,” first issued to subscribers as a 40-page ‘Extra, No. IX’ issue of Brother Jonathan weekly in New York, and dated September 14, 1842, was a reworked bootleg version in English of Swiss cartoonist Rodolphe Töpffer’s comic strip Les Amours de Mr. Vieux Bois or Histoire de Mr. Vieux Bois (1827, Geneva album published 1837).
If Oldbuck might be called the first American comic book, the following short newspaper quip might be called the first criticism of comic books in America—:
Does the “Brother Jonathan” often humbug the public with such trash as the “Adventures of Obadiah Oldbuck”? The respectable papers of Boston should not become a party to such impositions by puffing them. — Gloucester [Massachusetts] Telegraph, Sep 16, 1842
Scandal of the Month
GRAPHIC NOVELS AREN’T BESTSELLERS ANY MORE
Starting February 5, the esteemed New York Times dropped graphic novels from its bestseller lists—i.e., Hardcover Graphic Books, Paperback Graphic Books and Manga. Among graphic novel publishers, this maneuver is seen as a serious blow to the future of graphic novel publication. ... To Find Out Just How Serious and To Learn What the Word of the Year Is and To Witness the Antics of the Trumptwit in Editoons over the Last Month (His First Frantic 30 Days in the White House), To See Pat Oliphan’s First Editoons in a Year, To Learn Who Were the Biggest Liars in the 2016 Campaign, To Witness Supposed Anti-semitism and To Read Rancid Raves Reviews of the New Wallace Wood Book and TV’s “Riverdale,” a Grotesque Version of Archie and the Gang—and More, Much More---Click Here And If You're Not a $ubscriber/associate—
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